This will be the third blog essay that I am aware of that carries this title, thus “Part III.” Good thing you can’t copyright a title. (I hope it lives up to the quality of the prequels, though I warn you, this is not a “cheerful” post.) The first was Bill Whittle’s Feb. 2003 piece, followed by one at Silent Running in September of 2005.
And we are a confident nation. Indeed, the quality that is admired by friend and foe alike, more than any other, is our optimism, our sense of hope for the future. We may be condemned overseas for our many flaws, but it’s hard to argue with an optimist who is willing to roll up his sleeves. And when we, as a nation, decide to do something – it gets done. We sometimes fail. We pay the price, fix the failures, and go on.
Footsteps on the moon.
Optimism and confidence colors everything we touch, from our movies and music to our skyscrapers and Space Telescopes. How else to explain the universal appeal of The American Dream, for that dream is indeed universal: freedom, safety, prosperity – and scores of other adjectives that can be summed up in that jaunty phrase, unheard of in a political document: the Pursuit of Happiness.
It is difficult for we Americans to fully grasp the effect we have on the world’s psyche, to understand the depth to which American culture has permeated the globe. We dominate the political, economic, military, scientific and cultural spheres as no nation has done before us. This influence is quite invisible to the average American, because it is simply an extension of the institutions we are familiar with at home. We think nothing of seeing McDonald’s or posters for The Matrix in Singapore, or Kiev, or Rio de Janeiro.
But imagine a landscape where, let us say, France had the same cultural impact on our shores: La Baguette restaurants on every corner, long lines around the multiplex to see Jules et Jim 2000, French troop transports idling down Interstate 10 in long convoys, French fighters flying to and from French air bases set out in the middle of former farmland, television filled with dubbed French sitcoms named Mon Dieu! and Les Amis, and everywhere on the news nothing but reports of what the French government was doing and how it was going to affect us.
Okay, stop imagining – this is like huffing paint; you can feel the brain cells dying. But this is the effect we have, and there are forces at work in the world, forces besides Islamic Terrorism who would like to see nothing so much as a confident, determined United States taken down a peg. Or two. Or twenty.
From Silent Running:
(Lord Kenneth Clark) said one of the most important features of a civilisation, if not the most, was confidence. Confidence that it would still be around next year, that it was worthwhile planting crops now, so they could be harvested next season. Confidence that soldiers wouldn’t suddenly appear on the horizon and destroy your farm. Confidence that an apple seed planted in your backyard will provide fruit for your grandchildren. That if you paint a fresco, the wall its on will still be standing in a century. That if you write a book, the language you use will still be understood half a millennia in the future. And that if you hauled stone for the great cathedral which had been building since before your father was born, and which your baby son might live to see completed if, the good Lord willing, he lived to be an old man; your efforts would be valued by subsequent generations stretching forward toward some unimaginably distant futurity.
And above all, the self-confidence that you are part of something grander than yourself, something with roots in the past, and a glorious future of achievement ahead of it. When the Romans lost that self confidence, when they began doubting their own purpose, they began to die.
When the Rhine opposite Cologne froze on the last dying day of the year 406CE and the motley horde of Suevi, Alans, and Vandals charged across the Imperial border into the privince of Gaul, that was the beginning of the end merely in the physical sense. They were simply taking an axe to an already rotten tree.
And that is precisely what Osama Bin Laden believes he is doing to Western Civilisation right now. Those planes being rammed into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon were to instill in us the same fear felt by the centurion in charge of a pitifully small garrison in a lonely fortification as he looked out across the ice at the thousands of savages who were about to overrun both him and his entire world. Osama, and the Islamist movement he represents, have calculated that we are the modern Rome, and that we are bored, decadent, and have no faith in ourselves.
These are hard times, psychologically, to be a person who loves America. Hard because we do, indeed, wish to be liked by the rest of the world. Hard because we know in our hearts that we are good people, decent people who do not leap for joy at the chance to spill the blood of our own children and spend untold treasure just to have the hateful, pornographic thrill of seeing brown people blown to bits.
Yet we are accused of exactly this, and worse. We hear of polls saying that upwards of 75% of countries like England and France see the United States as the greatest danger to the world, and it knocks the wind out of us. No, that can’t be right. Can it? Can they really believe that?
Some do. Many do.
Some of this emotion is genuine, real fear and panic brought on by our unparalleled success, and our past miscalculations and blunders. Some of it is envy, pure and simple. Some is driven by pain, the pain of lost greatness and glory. Some is projection, a sense of how tempting it might be to hold such power, from countries with histories of real empires, real governors, and real subjugation.
And some of it – much of it – is intentionally aimed at our decency, our sense of restraint and isolation, our desire to get back to our own happy and safe lives and turn our back on the world lost in the delusion that we long to possess it.
The protestors we have seen recently know this very well. They accuse us of being Nazis. We hear people from Berkeley and Santa Monica railing that they live in a Police State, no better than the one in Iraq. They claim we want nothing but oil, filthy lucre – and ascribe to our determined action the most base motives they can devise: sheer profit. Diversion from economic woes. Racism. Paternal guilt. Bloodlust. The list goes on and on.
Like the terrorists we also face in these quietly desperate times, these people seek to attack us where we are the most vulnerable, and for the anti-American multitudes that means our confidence. They know as well as we do that if we were the cruel, bloodthirsty and vicious killers they claim us to be that they would all be dead in unmarked graves. Gandhi, after all, succeeded in freeing India because his non-violent strategy was aimed at the British – another fundamentally decent and humane people. Had he tried this against Hitler or Stalin we would never have heard of him, for he would be yet another of the nameless, faceless millions taken away in the night, never to be seen again.
Knowing we are a moral people, knowing that we want above all else to do the right thing, knowing that the idea of invasion and war is a hateful and desperate last resort for us, they target their message to our conscience and confidence, little decency-seeking missiles like BUSH = HITLER, NO BLOOD FOR OIL and GIVE PEACE A CHANCE. These people know that the only thing capable of stopping a determined America is America herself. That is why our confidence is under attack in so many ways, and from so many sides.
Is it working?
I have, on more than one occasion, been accused of pessimism. My reply is always that being a pessimist has a major advantage – you go through life very seldom disappointed, and quite often pleasantly surprised. The results of November’s elections didn’t disappoint me. Nothing could have pleasantly surprised me.
See? It works!
One more (Ok, two more) excerpts from Whittle:
You’d think I would be ashamed to use such a jingoistic, hackneyed cliché as ‘lousy, stinking Commies.’ I am not. Here is a philosophy that has killed no less than sixty million people outright (more like 120 million – Ed.), through executions, forced starvation, Gulags and Great Leaps Forward. They have drawn us into the most filthy fights in Asia, Africa and South America, led us to sully and permanently stain our national honor fighting nasty, brutal wars in God knows how many places, and driven us to back local thugs and dictators whose only redeeming value was their promise to stop this disease from spreading.
Like Islamic Fundamentalists, they are deeply deluded people in love with a fantasy ideology that promises them revenge and the spoils of revolution, rewards that they are unwilling to work for and incapable of generating. Claiming the moral cloak of Robin Hood, these people want to rob from the rich – and keep it.
Look at the protest signs shrieking WELLSTONE WAS ASSASSINATED! and ONLY SOCIALIST REVOLUTION CAN END IMPERIALIST WAR! These people are not protesting the war in Iraq. What they are interested in is crippling the US. They know they cannot confront us directly. They have no military assets now that the Soviet arsenal is rusting back into the ground. They certainly don’t seem to have jobs, so they’re not exactly an economic force. And everywhere their political views have been put into practice, the result has been spectacular: collapse and ruin in the best of cases, and repression, torture and mass murder in the worst.
These people are political, economic and cultural failures. They are losers. But they have a secret weapon. If they cannot attack us head on, in open daylight, then perhaps they can erode, decay, and rot our moral foundations slowly, imperceptibly. And they are doing this. And it is succeeding.
If large numbers of our own people can equate The President of the United States with Adolf Hitler, if we actually believe the US is the source of all the misery in the world, if we despise ourselves and our history and expect to be praised for it, if strength and morality and sureness of purpose can be openly mocked as ridiculous anachronisms, if our institutions can be spat upon, our flag burned and our ethics slandered – if all of this can happen, in public, and we simply accept it, then something is indeed very wrong with our foundation and we had better start paying attention to it right quick while we can still save the building.
And here we are, five and a half years later.
How does the building look to you? It looks to me as though Yuri Bezmenov knew whereof he spoke – more of my own personal pessimism.
Whittle made mention of the Left’s “fantasy ideology.” In August of 2002 Lee Harris published Al Qaeda’s Fantasy Ideology, an essay exploring the “root cause” of the 9/11 attacks. It made a fairly big splash in the blogosphere. An excerpt:
What words or phrase should we use merely to refer to the events of that day? Was it a disaster? Or perhaps a tragedy? Was it a criminal act, or was it an act of war? Indeed, one awkward TV anchorman, in groping for the proper handle, fecklessly called it an accident. But eventually the collective and unconscious wisdom that governs such matters prevailed. Words failed, then fell away completely, and all that was left behind was the bleak but monumentally poignant set of numbers, 9-11.
But this did not answer the great question: What did it all mean? In the early days, there were many who were convinced that they knew the answer to this question. A few held that we had got what we had coming:
“America’s chickens . . . have come home . . . to ROOST!” – Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
It was just deserts for President Bush’s refusal to sign the Kyoto treaty or the predictable product of the U.S. decision to snub the Durban conference on racism. Others held, with perhaps a greater semblance of plausibility, that the explanation of 9-11 was to be sought in what was called, through an invariable horticultural metaphor, the “root cause” of terrorism. Eliminate poverty, or economic imperialism, or global warming, and such acts of terrorism would cease.
Opposed to this kind of analysis were those who saw 9-11 as an unprovoked act of war, and the standard comparison here was with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. To this school of thought–ably represented by, among others, the distinguished classicist Victor Davis Hanson–it is irrelevant what grievances our enemy may believe it has against us; what matters is that we have been viciously attacked and that, for the sake of our survival, we must fight back.
Those who hold this view are in the overwhelming majority among Americans.
Or at least they were as of September of 2005. Today? Maybe not so much. After all, one of Obama’s campaign promises was to end the war in Iraq RFN!
And he won, 52% to 48%.
And yet there is one point on which this position does not differ from the position adopted by those, such as Noam Chomsky, who place the blame for the attack on American policy: Both points of view agree in interpreting 9-11 as an act of war, disagreeing only on the question of whether or not it was justifiable.
And on whether or not we ought to lose.
But here, for the purposes of this essay, are the key graphs from Harris’s piece:
My first encounter with this particular kind of fantasy occurred when I was in college in the late 1960s. A friend of mine and I got into a heated argument. Although we were both opposed to the Vietnam War, we discovered that we differed considerably on what counted as permissible forms of antiwar protest. To me the point of such protest was simple–to turn people against the war. Hence anything that was counterproductive to this purpose was politically irresponsible and should be severely censured. My friend thought otherwise; in fact, he was planning to join what by all accounts was to be a massively disruptive demonstration in Washington, which in fact became one.
My friend did not disagree with me as to the likely counterproductive effects of such a demonstration. Instead, he argued that this simply did not matter. His answer was that even if it was counterproductive, even if it turned people against war protesters, indeed even if it made them more likely to support the continuation of the war, he would still participate in the demonstration and he would do so for one simple reason–because it was, in his words, good for his soul.
What I saw as a political act was not, for my friend, any such thing. It was not aimed at altering the minds of other people or persuading them to act differently. Its whole point was what it did for him.
And what it did for him was to provide him with a fantasy–a fantasy, namely, of taking part in the revolutionary struggle of the oppressed against their oppressors. By participating in a violent antiwar demonstration, he was in no sense aiming at coercing conformity with his view–for that would still have been a political objective. Instead, he took his part in order to confirm his ideological fantasy of marching on the right side of history, of feeling himself among the elect few who stood with the angels of historical inevitability. Thus, when he lay down in front of hapless commuters on the bridges over the Potomac, he had no interest in changing the minds of these commuters, no concern over whether they became angry at the protesters or not. They were there merely as props, as so many supernumeraries in his private psychodrama. The protest for him was not politics but theater; and the significance of his role lay not in the political ends his actions might achieve, but rather in their symbolic value as ritual. In short, he was acting out a fantasy.
It was not your garden-variety fantasy of life as a sexual athlete or a racecar driver, but in it, he nonetheless made himself out as a hero–a hero of the revolutionary struggle. The components of his fantasy–and that of many young intellectuals at that time–were compounded purely of ideological ingredients, smatterings of Marx and Mao, a little Fanon and perhaps a dash of Herbert Marcuse.
For want of a better term, call the phenomenon in question a fantasy ideology–by which I mean political and ideological symbols and tropes used not for political purposes, but entirely for the benefit of furthering a specific personal or collective fantasy. It is, to be frank, something like the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons carried out not with the trappings of medieval romances–old castles and maidens in distress–but entirely in terms of ideological symbols and emblems. The difference between them is that one is an innocent pastime while the other has proved to be one of the most terrible scourges to afflict the human race.
There seems to be a lot of something much like that going around these days.
It has been an ongoing theme here at TSM since I hit “PUBLISH” on Not with a Bang, but a Whimper? in October of 2003, that things are not going well for the Republic, and they appear to be getting worse. As Bill Whittle said, there’s something very wrong with our foundation. The Left exhibits cockroach resilience, while the Right seems ever less willing to even lace up its boots. In that 2003 post I asked this:
So the question is: “Have we reached a critical mass?” Are there now so many people who have gone through the education mills and been taught not how to think, but not to think that we’re outnumbered to the point that resistance is futile?
I think perhaps that question has now been answered. In a comment to that post I wrote this:
Given the fact that the Republicans as a party aren’t as conservative as they were in the 50’s, and the apparent fact that they aren’t willing to do battle with the (minority) Democrats (see the judicial nominations, for example) what good does (a congressional majority) do us?
Answer: Obviously not much. And a congressional minority, nothing at all.
Right Wing radio and TV: Again, shining the light, but the cockroaches just come back.
Actually, now most don’t even bother to scurry into hiding. Self-confessed communist Bill Ayers recently had the audacity to tell a reporter “This is my property. Please leave.” A communist? With private property? What would Marx say?
Dropping ratings: That’s people disconnecting from the political process – a net win for the leftists.
Five years further on, in what could be argued was really was the most important Presidential election since Lincoln took office, only about 62% of eligible voters actually voted. “Republican turnout declined by 1.3 percentage points to 28.7 percent, while Democratic turnout increased by 2.6 points from 28.7 percent in 2004 to 31.3 percent in 2008” says one source. And those who did vote? They were staggeringly ignorant of the candidates.
Well, all but one.
Gun control: Delayed, not defeated? That depends, I think, on what the Supreme Court does with Silveira.
SCOTUS punted on Silveira and on Emerson, reversed and remanded Stewart, but it finally gave us a solid victory in Heller. Unfortunately that doesn’t mean Obama won’t sign a new, even stronger “Assault Weapons Ban” that SCOTUS won’t overturn, or won’t even address until thirty-plus years after it passes. Remember, Obama doesn’t just nominate Supreme Court justices, he nominates all federal judges. There are (or were when I started writing this peice several months ago) 42 vacancies – 12 in the Circuit courts, and 30 in the District courts. Seven of the twelve Circuit court openings are considered “judicial emergencies” due to the length of time the seats have been open and the volume of cases before those courts. One seat on the 9th Circuit has been open since December 31 of 2004.
Think that one will be filled this term? Think it’ll be another Alex Kozinski? And Obama just got Eric Holder confirmed as his Attorney General. That ought to give you the warm fuzzies.
California: Ahnold gets elected, and can’t fix the problems. He’s got to fight a Democratic House, Senate, and judiciary. As someone said, it’s like fighting to be captain of the Titanic.
Arnold won that Captaincy. He won re-election to the post. Now he wants $87 billion from the Federal Government – that would be you and me – to help pump down the bilges on his still-sinking ship. Hey, don’t all those people in the entertainment media make a lot more than $250,000 a year? Tax them – they don’t need it! And they voted for it!
War on Terror: Quagmire! Quagmire! $87 Billion! $87 Billion! No WMD’s! No Exit Strategy! We won the war, but the peace is still under contention here.
We’re still spending buttloads of cash in the Middle East, but now we’re spending metric buttloads of cash here, we’re told, trying to stave off a Depression. $700 billion! $700 billion! Another $787 billion has been rubber-stamped by Congress and on its way to Obama’s desk for his signature. I’m sure that he’ll fix everything else in his spare time between fixing our souls, healing the planet and meeting with foreign leaders without precondition.
We did hasten the collapse of the USSR, but Communism lives on in China – and we’re shoveling them $$ by the container-shipload.
And, in these tough economic times, we’re shoveling even more money off to China because A) even more stuff comes from there now and B) people are increasingly doing their shopping at Wal-Mart.
I am not heartened.
Still plays well five years later, doesn’t it?
And I’m still not heartened. But I’m not disappointed!
The one sector of the economy that is doing well? Gun and ammo sales.
In December of 2003 I wrote Pressing the “Reset” Button in response to a question by Jay Solo. Nothing I’ve seen so far has altered the opinion I expressed in that post, though the scenarios may have changed a bit.
What I’ve witnessed over half of my life (the time I’ve actually been paying attention) and especially the last five and a half years (the time I’ve been writing about it) is what appears to me to be America’s inexorable slide away from our individual “pursuit of happiness” towards a pursuit of collective security in what the populace – what few of them who think about it all all – hopes will be at least a gilded cage. It’s the pursuit of an illusion, but it’s a pretty illusion.
In 1994 Joseph Sobran wrote How Tyranny Came to America, a piece I suggest you read if you have not. There’s nothing really new there, but it’s good to brush up on your history. In it he wrote:
The average American, whether he has had high-school civics or a degree in political science, is apt to assume that the Constitution somehow empowers the government to do nearly anything, while implicitly limiting our rights by listing them. Not that anyone would say it this way. But it’s as if the Bill of Rights had said that the enumeration of the federal government’s powers in the Constitution is not meant to deny or disparage any other powers it may choose to claim, while the rights not given to the people in the Constitution are reserved to the federal government to give or withhold, and the states may be progressively stripped of their original powers.
What it comes to is that we don’t really have an operative Constitution anymore. The federal government defines its own powers day by day. It’s limited not by the list of its powers in the Constitution, but by whatever it can get away with politically. Just as the president can now send troops abroad to fight without a declaration of war, Congress can pass a national health care program without a constitutional delegation of power. The only restraint left is political opposition.
One interesting example of the fact that we don’t have an operative Constitution was pointed out recently at The Volokh Conspiracy: Hillary can’t (Constitutionally) become Secretary of State. But as Prof. Michael Stokes Paulsen explains:
Unless one views the Constitution’s rules as rules that may be dispensed with when inconvenient; or as not really stating rules at all (but “standards” or “principles” to be viewed at more-convenient levels of generality); or as not applicable where a lawsuit might not be brought; or as not applicable to Democratic administrations, then the plain linguistic meaning of this chunk of constitutional text forbids the appointment of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. I wouldn’t bet on this actually preventing the appointment, however. It didn’t stop Lloyd Bentsen from becoming Secretary of State. But it does make an interesting first test of how serious Barack Obama will be about taking the Constitution’s actual words seriously.
Did anyone take any bets? She’s Secretary Clinton now.
If your average American has had an average recent public school education, then he or she hasn’t had much of anything to do with civics or history. (See the Zogby poll link above, for example. Or the results of the American Civic Literacy report.) Sobran then gave a very pertinent example:
If you suspect I’m overstating the change from our original principles, I give you the late Justice Hugo Black. In a 1965 case called Griswold v. Connecticut, the Court struck down a law forbidding the sale of contraceptives on grounds that it violated a right of “privacy.” (This supposed right, of course, became the basis for the Court’s even more radical 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade, but that’s another story.) Justice Black dissented in the Griswold case on the following ground: “I like my privacy as well as the next [man],” he wrote, “but I am nevertheless compelled to admit that government has a right to invade it unless prohibited by some specific constitutional provision.” What a hopelessly muddled — and really sinister — misconception of the relation between the individual and the state: government has a right to invade our privacy, unless prohibited by the Constitution. You don’t have to share the Court’s twisted view of the right of privacy in order to be shocked that one of its members takes this view of the “right” of government to invade privacy.
There’s another example immediately after that one – I do urge you to read it – but Sobran concludes:
The unchecked federal government has not only overflowed its banks; it has even created its own economy. Thanks to its exercise of myriad unwarranted powers, it can claim tens of millions of dependents, at least part of whose income is due to the abuse of the taxing and spending powers for their benefit: government employees, retirees, farmers, contractors, teachers, artists, even soldiers. Large numbers of these people are paid much more than their market value because the taxpayer is forced to subsidize them. By the same token, most taxpayers would instantly be better off if the federal government simply ceased to exist — or if it suddenly returned to its constitutional functions.
Can we restore the Constitution and recover our freedom? I have no doubt that we can. Like all great reforms, it will take an intelligent, determined effort by many people. I don’t want to sow false optimism.
But the time is ripe for a constitutional counterrevolution. Discontent with the ruling system, as the 1992 Perot vote showed, is deep and widespread among several classes of people: Christians, conservatives, gun owners, taxpayers, and simple believers in honest government all have their reasons. The rulers lack legitimacy and don’t believe in their own power strongly enough to defend it.
The beauty of it is that the people don’t have to invent a new system of government in order to get rid of this one. They only have to restore the one described in the Constitution — the system our government already professes to be upholding. Taken seriously, the Constitution would pose a serious threat to our form of government.
And for just that reason, the ruling parties will be finished as soon as the American people rediscover and awaken their dormant Constitution.
To which I pessimistically reply, “Yeah. Right. Like that’s going to happen.” Sobran needed to talk to Bezmenov.
But the fact of the matter is, the Constitution is moot. When it’s politic to do so, politicians praise that document to the high heavens and swear oaths to uphold and defend it against all enemies, foreign and domestic. But when it’s inconvenient, it is at best ignored, and at worst used as toilet paper. Justice Scalia once said:
To some degree, a constitutional guarantee is like a commercial loan, you can only get it if, at the time, you don’t really need it. The most important, enduring, and stable portions of the Constitution represent such a deep social consensus that one suspects if they were entirely eliminated, very little would change. And the converse is also true. A guarantee may appear in the words of the Constitution, but when the society ceases to possess an abiding belief in it, it has no living effect. Consider the fate of the principle expressed in the Tenth Amendment that the federal government is a government of limited powers. I do not suggest that constitutionalization has no effect in helping the society to preserve allegiance to its fundamental principles. That is the whole purpose of a constitution. But the allegiance comes first and the preservation afterwards.
The fault is ours. We let it happen. Too much of the population lost its abiding belief in the Constitution some time long before I was born. I put the date around the Great Depression, with FDR and the New Deal, after the country was prepped and primed by Woodrow Wilson’s presidency. With the New Deal we finally reached the point that Tocqueville (maybe) warned us against:
The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.
The New Deal did exactly that. But entropy can be slow, and the nation had a lot of momentum to overcome. That’s been taken care of now, though. The only way to achieve high office in this country now is to be a statist willing to promise redistribution of wealth (though it is generally disguised as “earmarks” and not – usually -blatantly referred to as “spreading the wealth.”)
Joseph Sobran said in 1994 that “the time is ripe for a constitutional counterrevolution.” I think he overreached. That time was long overdue even in 1994, but the population to support it wasn’t there, and still isn’t.
When all is said and done, Civilizations do not fall because of the barbarians at the gates. Nor does a great city fall from the death wish of bored and morally bankrupt stewards presumably sworn to its defense. Civilizations fall only because each citizen of the city comes to accept that nothing can be done to rally and rebuild broken walls; that ground lost may never be recovered; and that greatness lived in our grandparents but not our grandchildren. Yes, our betters tell us these things daily. But that doesn’t mean we have to believe it. – Bill Whittle
But what happens when more and more do believe it?
Here’s a selection of quotes I’ve collected – without trying hard – since November from various sources. I have linked to each point of origin. I strongly urge you to read each link.
Mr. Obama’s winning platform can be boiled down to one word: change.
I have never been so afraid for my country and for my children as I am now.
This man campaigned on bringing people together, something he has never, ever done in his professional life. In my assessment, Obama will divide us along philosophical lines, push us apart, and then try to realign the pieces into a new and different power structure. Change is indeed coming. And when it comes, you will never see the same nation again.
And that is only the beginning. – History author warns Les Etats-Unix .. something wicked this way comes – Villagers with Torches
I have no faith in my fellow Americans any more. Friends of mine who I know are smart, intelligent people are full bore Obama supporters. People are calling for a national holiday celebrating Obama. Politicians’ masks slipped and they realized nobody cared. – Fear Itself – Sharp as a Marble
The GOP strategist had been joking about the upcoming presidential election and giving his humorous assessments of the candidates. Then he suddenly cut out the schtick and got scary serious. “Let me tell you something, if Democrats take the White House and pass a big-government healthcare plan, that’s it. Game over. Government will dominate the economy like it does in Europe. Conservatives will spend the rest of their lives trying to turn things around and they will fail.” – How Tom Daschle Might Kill Conservatism, U.S. News & World Report
In trying to resurrect conservatism and the Republican party, I fear there’s a whole segment of our country we can never reach. These people, whether rich or poor, are not our natural constituents. These are the people to whom things are owed.
We saw it after the Katrina debacle, at the other end of the socioeconomic scale: “Why are you so slow to help us? Where is our money and food? Why haven’t you been here, government, rebuilding my house? I know my rights, and my rights include welfare, subsidies, support, and attention. We’re not to be treated like those victims of tornadoes in the Midwest who pull themselves together, help their friends, patrol their communities, and rebuild their neighborhoods. No, life is supposed to be easy, big and easy; why aren’t you here right now with the support I deserve?” And we hear it from the fat financial community who want the bailout check left at their door while they go on rich retreats to celebrate their good fortune. – Party of Privilege, John Agresto, National Review Online
Any future similarities between the coming Obama regime, and the ideas of James Madison and Thomas Jefferson will be oversights. Peter Hitchins nailed it when he wrote “The United States, having for the most part a deeply conservative people, had until now just about stood out against many of the mistakes which have ruined so much of the rest of the world.” Conversely, Rep. John Lewis happily told Charlie Gibson that Obama’s election was “a nonviolent revolution.” And that’s the problem. The overthrow of the United States should be a very violent affair, indeed. At least as violent as 1775–1783, 1812-1815, 1861-1865, 1917-1919, 1941-1945, 1950-1953, the WALL and the Desert years that created and protected this greatest nation in history, combined. It will be still, if my interpretation of events withstand scrutiny, and are shared by enough people. Some of whom fly F-22’s. – Why I’m Demoralized, Curmudgeonly & Skeptical2
This is the state of our great republic: We’ve nationalized the financial system, taking control from Wall Street bankers we no longer trust. We’re about to quasi-nationalize the Detroit auto companies via massive loans because they’re a source of American pride, and too many jobs — and votes — are at stake. Our Social Security system is going broke as we head for a future in which too many retirees will be supported by too few workers. How long before we have national health care? Put it all together, and the America that emerges is a cartoonish version of the country most despised by red-meat red-state patriots: France. Only with worse food.
Admit it, mes amis, the rugged individualism and cutthroat capitalism that made America the land of unlimited opportunity has been shrink-wrapped by half a dozen short sellers in Greenwich, Conn., and FedExed to Washington, D.C., to be spoon-fed back to life by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson. We’re now no different from any of those Western European semi-socialist welfare states that we love to deride. – How We Became the United States of France, Time
Tocqueville famously warned about that infantilization in the celebrated paragraphs about “democratic despotism” in Democracy in America, that “tutelary” despotism which “extends its arms over society as a whole [and] covers its surface with a network of small, complicated, painstaking, uniform rules through which the most original minds and the most vigorous souls cannot clear a way to surpass the crowd.” As our masters in Washington debate over which industries are to be the recipients of the taxpayers’ largesse, it is worth remembering Tocqueville’s warning with Friedrich Hayek’s admonition that “Economic control is not merely control of a sector of human life which can be separated from the rest; it is the control of the means for all our ends. And whoever has sole control of the means must also determine which ends are to be served, which values are to be rated higher and which lower—in short, what men should believe and strive for.” It is a commonplace to observe that freedom is difficult to achieve but easy, oh-so-easy, to lose. As Hume saw, it is generally not lost all at once, but step by step: government program by government program, regulation by regulation, entitlement by entitlement, until finally, as Tocqueville put it, we find ourselves “nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals of which the government is the shepherd.” – Freedom Imperilled, The New Criterion
It is the Democrat Party that has brought this nation to this state of affairs. It has seized our wealth, denied us access to the products under our very soil, removed our God from public affairs, forced our children into pagan schools, murdered our unborn in the wombs of their mothers, shoved their grotesque sexual depravity into the faces of decent people, boasted of its power to grab the nation’s manufacturing base, destroyed our finances and corrupted the votes of free men.
To put the matter as plain as it can be, the Democrat Party has declared war upon this Republic. It is a matter of survival that this Republic declare war upon the Democrat Party.
Better to be dead than to be ruled by the likes of Barney Frank. – The Shape of Things to Come, The Return of Scipio
It’s wrong to cast this as some sort of partisan dilemma. This not about the Republicans vs. the Democrats. This is about the government vs. you.
This is statism vs. individual freedom. The forces that have subjugated mankind since time immemorial are fighting the liberties that have created the greatest prosperity and abundance the planet has ever known. For all the political drawbacks of the classic “libertarian” philosophy, its underlying adoration of personal freedom, the right to be left alone, the right to do as you please as long as you harm no one, this must be rekindled. – Bill of Rights Day, Page Nine
My reasons for inditing the sucker were, first, to see whether a web column could work and, second, to get away from the strangling grasp of political correctness. A third reason, common I suppose to most columnists, was the hope that, however minor my voice might be, in combination with thousands of others it might engender pressure for slowing the rush into the high-tech medieval twilight that the culture has undertaken.
This by now is clearly quixotic. The civilizational changes we now see are both irremediable and beyond control. The peasantrification and empty glitter of society, pervasive hostility to careful thought, onrushing authoritarianism, and distaste for cultivation are now endemic. I do not know where these lead, but we are assuredly going to get there. – Goodbye!, Fred on Everything
That’s just a small excerpt of the folder I’ve marked “Tough History Coming” where I’ve been putting links to things pertinent to this essay. Then, of course, this weekend came this:
The cover article is just a few months behind the Time piece quoted above. But Michael Ledeen is correct in his assessment:
To be sure, the basic theme – that the huge “stimulus” and the big big big TARP is leading once-capitalist America down the dangerous road to socialism – is not limited to the skinny weekly. You hear it all over the place, from Right to Left, from talk radio to the evening news (or so I am told; personally, I haven’t watched an evening news broadcast since 1987).
There’s a element of truth to the basic theme (although not to the headline): the state is getting more and more deeply involved in business, even taking controlling interests in some private companies. And the state is even trying to “make policy” for private companies they do not control, but merely “help” with “infusions of capital,” as in the recent call for salary caps for certain CEOs. So state power is growing at the expense of corporations.
But that’s not socialism. Socialism rests on a firm theoretical bedrock: the abolition of private property. I haven’t heard anyone this side of Barney Frank calling for any such thing. What is happening now – and Newsweek is honest enough to say so down in the body of the article – is an expansion of the state’s role, an increase in public/private joint ventures and partnerships, and much more state regulation of business. Yes, it’s very “European,” and some of the Europeans even call it “social democracy,” but it isn’t.
He’s right, but if you’ve read Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism then you understand that – contrary to the meme the Left has been frantically spreading since prior to WWII – fascism and socialism aren’t opposite sides of a coin. They are, in fact, conjoined twins. And America’s slide into fascism/socialism will be of the smiley-faced, maternal, we-know-what’s-best-for-you form, not the jackboot-stamping-on-the-face-of-humanity form.
If you read right-of-center blogs, and especially if you read the comments to those blogs, you have noticed that more and more people are concerned, worried, alarmed, angered, outraged by our descent. We weren’t happy when Bush II nationalized the banking industry, and we’re really not happy now that Congress has passed the latest “Stimulus” bill.
Our confidence isn’t low. We’re certain we’re fucked.
Vin Suprinowicz says that Americans are buying all these guns and all that ammo not for revolution but instead we’re “in a thoroughly defensive mode, stocking up now to avoid the Democratic gun bans they believe are coming.” At least, that’s what he was saying on November 15.
At some point, however, do we reach a critical mass? The point at which Lord Kenneth Clark described brings the fall of civilizations? Where Bill Whittle – even Bill – admits:
Civilizations fall only because each citizen of the city comes to accept that nothing can be done to rally and rebuild broken walls; that ground lost may never be recovered; and that greatness lived in our grandparents but not our grandchildren. Yes, our betters tell us these things daily. But that doesn’t mean we have to believe it.
It’s not just our elites saying it any more. A lot of us ordinary folk believe it now, and that number, I think, is growing daily.
And with that, I’m off to the range.